Sunday 27 November 2016

Roman Road Neighbourhood Plan - Closing Date 23rd December 2016

A map of the Roman Road Neighbourhood area
Just to recap: A group known as "The Roman Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum" have submitted an application to Tower Hamlets that seeks to define the area over which they will be able to influence development. The area includes the whole of MEOTRA as shown above.

This short (2 minute) video explains the whole neighbourhood plan concept and is well worth watching.

Having read the 19-page application my main thoughts are:
  1. The name of the area is wrong. It should be called "Bow Neighbourhood"
  2. The forum is far too Roman Road orientated in membership, emphasis and focus.
  3. There has not been "extensive consultation" as stated in the application.

The name of the area is wrong. It should be called "Bow Neighbourhood"
Why does the name matter? Well if you want those of us who live or work in the area to feel it is "our plan" then it makes sense to name it after the geographical area it covers. Calling it "Roman Road Neighbourhood" will leave large numbers of residents feeling it has nothing to do with them. That is until they submit a planning application or want to oppose one, only to find "their neighbourhood" has a different view. Even the application states "The proposed plan area broadly coincides with the ward boundaries for Bow West and Bow East". So just call it "Bow Neighbourhood" then?

The forum is far too Roman Road orientated in membership, emphasis and focus.
This neighbourhood plan initiative was born out of the Roman Road Trust and several key members are on the Forum's Steering Committee. Indeed it seems all the steering committee closely identify with Roman Road. When it comes to drawing up the Neighbourhood Plan itself then it seems highly likely their focus will be on the Roman Road area. Indeed in their application they state:

"For the Roman Road to continue to function as a local high street in years to come, it is important that the needs and views of the surrounding residents inform the plan, and not just taking into account  the needs and views of the businesses on the Roman Road itself".
So they want to hear our views, but only about Roman Road?

For many of us in MEOTRA, although we like the Roman Road we also want to see the high street where we live develop. It is easy to think we don't have a high street but when you list some of the shops on our doorstep whether that be the chains (Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Costa, Starbucks, KFC, Subway), or the ever-growing number of quality independents (The Coffee Room, The Pizza Room, The Greedy Cow, Italian Kitchen, Rusty Bike, Ye Olde Corner Shop to name but a few) you realise that given a nudge in the right direction (ie a decent Neighbourhood Plan) we could have our own High Street to rival the Roman. Think about the almost guaranteed redevelopment of the Benjy's site, Onyz House, the TA building and the Gateway Housing site; not to mention the potential for developing the area immediately around Mile End Station (the Forensic Labs that closed last year, the area above (sic!) Mile End station). Most of these developments are likely to have shops at ground floor level (yes some of us pray for an M&S Simply Foods or dare I say a Waitrose).

There has not been "extensive consultation" as stated in the application.
The combined population of Bow West and Bow East Wards is just over 27,000 and yet the key stats of the forum are: Facebook (19 members, 5 administrators, 4 posts), Twitter (11 tweets, 19 followers), Website (only 5 posts, 3 of which were written on the same day [16th November 2016]). Those figures don't look very "extensive"!

The application states:
"In June 2016 at Caxton Hall the consultation focused on key community organisations representing diverse groups and age ranges to make sure the voices of those communities are heard in the boundary allocation and future content of the neighbourhood plan". 
But the MEOTRA committee has never been contacted or met with those running the Forum. MEOTRA only found out about the meeting by a member keeping his ear to the ground and seeing a tweet two days before the meeting. Another local community group "The Friends of Mile End Park" (FOMEP) has also not been contacted, although a representative from the Forum arrived uninvited and unannounced at the FOMEP Community Fair in July and proceeded to "consult". Together these two groups amount to around 20% of the proposed area. The application also states British Waterways has been consulted with and yet this organisation hasn't existed since 2012?

Something else I have noted is the lack of any minutes from the meetings that have taken place so far. The inaugural meeting, elections, consultations have all taken place without any minutes.

Don't get me wrong I want a Neighbourhood Plan, but it has to be for Bow and have people from all over the proposed area help shape it; not just a few people focusing on one small part of the area however well-intentioned they are.

Please email with your views.

Residents have until Friday 23rd December to put their views in writing to the council by emailing them to or:

Neighbourhood Planning Consultation
D&R Strategic Planning
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
PO BOX 55739
E14 1BY

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